Ghost Dubs and the Art of the EP


GHOST DUBS started with a screening of KWAIDAN (1964, dir. Masaki Kobayashi) at the Austin Film Society theater. I hadn't been looking for an inspiration to get back into writing songs, but unexpectedly, I found one. 

Over the years, Larvae records have played like a line of Morse code. Short, Long, Short, Long, Short, Short, Long. This was intentional. The short records (we used to call them EPs but I think only the old guard and serious music nerds use that term anymore) gave me a chance to focus on a particular theme or style just long enough to to get it out of my system.

adn28 - MONSTER MUSIC - 2003

2003's MONSTER MUSIC contained three songs and a remix in homage to Godzilla movies. 2006's EMPIRE blasted out four songs and two remixes about Star Wars. LOSS LEADER, released by Ad Noiseam in 2008 was actually a pair of EPs delivered in a single package. The first four songs were an attempt at writing music centered around guitars, while the last four songs were a second reflection on Godzilla films called MONSTER MUSIC 2.

adn48 - EMPIRE - 2005

adn48 - EMPIRE - 2005

EPs are great. Albums can feel daunting and might even be stuffed with tracks that feel like they have been included to fill out the running time. But EPs let an artist or band explore and experiment. I've always found the practice of really focusing on something for three or four tracks to be creatively liberating. Larvae full length albums are often very personal affairs, written and recorded during intense periods where music-making feels more like therapy than art. Writing songs about giant monsters and Han Solo helps bring back a little of the fun.

GHOST DUBS is a reflection on, homage to, and remix of a selection of Japanese ghost movies from the 1950s and '60s. In many of these films, the focus is less on terror and scares and more on the physical and emotional toll of selfish choices. Sometimes the ghost provides a warning. Often, she seduces someone into a cycle of pain in a moment of weakness. These films are aching and slow and beautiful and I wanted to hear how playing with their tones would sound. That's the GHOST part.

The DUBS part came about as a very intentional choice to experiment with the trappings of dub that have inspired Larvae work for a long time. I wanted these songs to be short enough to fit on the side of a typical dub 45". I wanted them sparse and centered on basslines, and flirting with the tricked out effects mixes that dub is known for.

In the end, GHOST DUBS is still a Larvae record, so it's not going to sound like something hot off of the presses in Jamaica. But I hope that you enjoy it all the same, and if it inspires you to seek out some haunting Japanese movies, that's even better!

Ten of my Favorite EPs

Cocteau Twins - Love's Easy Tears (4AD)
Cocteau Twins - Otherness (Capitol)
Ganger - Canopy (Merge)
Low - Songs for a Dead Pilot (Kranky)
Scorn - White Irises Blind (Earache)
Clutch - Passive Restraints (Earache)
Godflesh - Merciless (Earache)
Jesu - Silver (Hydra Head)
Panasonic - Osasto (Blast First)
Boards of Canada - Hi Scores (Skam)

Exit Strategy - Larvae & Lomography

Another of the threads running through all of the Larvae albums is the use of photos taken with the Lomo LCA camera. I got my LCA for Christmas back in 2000 and I proptly took roll after roll of blurry, color-saturated, light-painted pictures with it. During my 2002 trip to Japan, it was the only camera I brought so all of my snapshots from that vacation are odd. I've never been much of a photographer, but I've always liked what I could produce with the Lomo.

On Fashion Victim, lomo prints hide subtly deep within the green of the album cover. On the inside of the digipak there's also a beautifully squiggly lomo picture of some lights in the Ginza.  

Swirly Lights on the inner sleeve!

For the cover of Dead Weight, I took pictures of barns out in rural Georgia, focusing on the wood texture and the cracks that would eventually give some depth to the brown sleeve for that album. The shack on the cover was at the end of a driveway somewhere about an hour East of Atlanta. That picture was taken with a digital point-and-shoot, but these wood textures from the LCA are all over the record.

Cracks in the wood.


With Loss Leader, the Lomo took center stage, providing the cover image--an extended exposure of some whirling dervishes performing at Agnes Scott College. There's also another light painting picture on the inner sleeve that was taken during a performance at Eyedrum, and more squiggly lights on the back!

Whirling!Loss Leader Liner NotesBlurry Lights and Words.

Now, more than a decade after I got my LCA, I'm still finding uses for it in the Larvae art department. Though the cover of Exit Strategey is built from photos taken by my new DSLR camera, there's a lovely shot on the inside of the jacket that I took with my trusty old LCA. It's nothing particually special, but the pinhole effect and the gray sky gives the photo just the right tone to fit with the album.

A tree in Austin, March 2011.

Beyond the LCA, some of the videos for Exit Strategy will incorporate footage shot with the LomoKino, Lomo's movie-maker that shoots tiny movies on regular 35mm film. We have stitched together LCA photos for a video before, but this new camera opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Look out.

Exit Strategy - Videos

Larvae albums tend to come out in three year intervals which seems like an eternity when I'm in that in-between state. One of the reasons that each new album is a daunting project is that any live performance of new music needs to be accompanied by new videos. The albums are typically written and recorded in three or four months, but adding a slate of video production draws that timeline out considerably.

Luckily, I had no shortage of ideas for videos for the songs on Exit Strategy.  As the songs were inspired by very real and immediate events, I had plenty of ways to visualize them.  The problem was that I wanted to take the video production in a much more personal and narrative direction which is typically labor-intensive. In the past, we've mixed up the videos between the fun, pop culture mashups and send ups and the more melancholy short narratives, often shot on Super 8 film.

"Vows & Promises" is the first complete video from Exit Strategy. It was shot on a Canon T2i during one weekend in Portland, Oregon with the help of a couple of old friends. If the structure of the video feels a little familar, that's on purpose. This is the thrid in a trilogy of videos that feature people repeating some activity in an effort to make sense of the world. "Bubastis" featured a woman who saw the world through her Polaroid camera, while "Snowday" tracked a young girl trying to erase her humdrum suburban life by crossing out words in the dictionary. "Vows" takes a similar approach but in a more constructive direction. See for yourself:

Vows & Promises from Matthew Jeanes on Vimeo.


Exit Strategy - How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Guitar

I began experimenting with guitar in Larvae songs on Dead Weight. The song "Airplanes" was actually written on guitar, played (poorly) by me, and then re-recorded by Randy Garcia so that the guitar had a nice tone and wasn't completely out of tune. Back then, I had the good sense to bring people in who could play guitar much better than I could so that the songs would sound good. After we finished up Dead Weight, I even tried playing guitar at a Larvae show at Eyedrum, but I found that I was so bad at it and it took so much more concentration to do the littlest things that it just wasn't as much fun as playing with the mixer and laptop on stage.

Larvae playing at Eyedrum for the 404noise Fest in 2006

For the "Turning Around" half of Loss Leader, I played all of the guitar, even on the song "Heavy" where there are probably six or seven layers of guitar tracks by the end. A lot of the weirdness of those songs comes from the fact that I didn't know how to tune my guitar and I have no technique to speak of, so most of the guitar was chunked down to tracks in Cubase and then hacked into time with digital edits.

Randy once mentioned that he liked the uniqueness of this sound and I suppose that's a plus--it's certainly born from a near complete naivete and lack of motivation to actually learn the instrument. In fact, when I DO tune the thing, I have to look up what note each string is supposed to be on Wikipedia because I can never remember.

Fast forward to Exit Strategey and I knew that the guitar was once again going to be an integral part of the songwriting process. As with "Airplanes" and "Heavy", many of the songs on this new record were written on the guitar, banged out one note at a time, and then augmented in the computer. While the sampler is still my instrument of choice, I found that I was able to get at the emotinal, melodic core of what I was doing much more quickly with a guitar than with synths or samples.

Luckily when I moved to Austin, I reunited with the guitarist from a previous band who had a beautifully clean amp that I could borrow. I recorded a handful of songs with the guitar running direct into my audio interface until I got the amp from Eric and realized that the amplified, mic'd sound was about a million times better. I had to re-record those first songs (no easy feat since I do it all by ear and have no idea where to put my fingers to make any of the notes,) and once I did, I realized that I needed to go further in this direction.

Guitar courtesy of Amber, Amp courtesy of Eric

So Exit Strategy is heavy on the guitar. Most songs have at least a couple guitar parts, while some have half a dozen layers of different guitar sounds, parts, and textures. I still can't really play a chord to save my life, but I can pick at the strings and play very simple melodies, then strum open strings or wail on the thing with an ebow to get textures. The result is a batch of songs that I'm incredibly proud of and happy with, even though I know that they could sound better if someone like Eric was laying down the tracks.

Exit Strategy - Answering the Age Old Gear Question

When I play shows and meet people around the world through music, one of the most common questions I get asked is "what did you use to make _insert album title_?"  Of course, my normal friends (read: not involved in the music world in any way) never ask this question, but it seems to come up a lot in music circles. The answer is never really that interesting--I have always used a very stripped-down set up as far as equipment goes. I used to write entire songs (sequencing and all) from an Ensoniq EPS 16+ keyboard sampler. Eventually, I added some synth and drum modules, then effects, then software sequencers until the mass of wires and flashing LED lights became a creative barrier.

For all of the Larvae material after Monster Music, everything has been sequenced with some version of Cubase and my primary instrument has been Native Instruments' Kontakt sampler. I've dabbled with plugins and other soft synths, and for a while I actually still kept some outboard gear that I synched up with MIDI and mixed down to audio tracks from an external mixer. But all of that got to be too cumbersome. Cubase never kept up with my computer upgrades, and it seemed like even fresh installs, upgrades, patches, and new hardware never solved the problem. I lost countless creative hours and motivation that I will never get back trying to get software and hardware to work.

With Exit Strategy, I finally decided to take the plunge and write everything using Ableton Live. I have used Live to perform since 2004 and it's always served me well on the stage, but I had never quite wrapped my head around composing in Live. For one thing, the way external instruments and MIDI trakcs work in Live has never been that intuitive for me. Then, the tension between Live's different views always made it hard for me to figure out how to approach structuring a song. I used to hear songs that people wrote in Live and I could tell right away how the songs were composed because they had that additive loop sound where I could picture the composer stepping through scenes.

It took me about a week to get into the swing of writing with Live. The first couple of tracks were witten in the scene view and based around building up loops into something organic. After a while, I realized that I needed to go back to the standard Left-to-Right timeline approach so that I could see where the songs were headed as they developed. I'm not much of an improviser, so I like to lock down a structure rather than have scenes that can play for indeterminate lengths.

So Live replaced Cubase, but I still used Kontakt as my primary instrument. Like a songwriter who bangs out a melody on a piano only to develop it into a fully-orchestrated piece played by a band, I tend to work from samples in Kontakt to build a foundation that I then flesh out with other instruments. Bass came almost exclusively from the Novation V-Station (as it has for every Larvae record) but I played around with Massive, too, and used that on a couple of songs. Synth sounds came from Absynth, Massive, and a hanfdul of free or cheap plug in soft synths that worked to fill in gaps. I also swear by the Audio Damage fx and I used them on every song!

I am not a tinkerer or knob-twister--I don't have the patience for building synth patches or tweaking complex LFO patterns. I tend to prefer out-of-the-box sounds that I can get some emotional content from in minutes rather than hours. As a result, the studio setup looked like this:

Sequencer and FX: Ableton Live 7
Sampler: NI Kontakt
Bass Synth: Novation V-Station
Synths: NI Absynth 5 & NI Massive; Tweakbench Padawan, Minerva, Peach and others; Glue Reeds, RIP, Majken's Chimera
FX: Audio Damage Dubstation & EOS
Guitar Processing: NI Guitar Rig 2 

Now, a handy infographic made in Ableton Live that shows the history of my studio setup, as best as I can remember. (You can open it to make it bigger.)

Make with the clicking!

Next time: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Guitar 

Exit Strategy - What's In A Title?

Before I had written one note of music for this record, I already had a whole list of song titles. One of the nice things about making mostly instrumental music is that titles can flow freely from ideas rather than being tethered to the words that someone chooses to sing over the music. I got lucky that the collaborators on Dead Weight were able to work with or around my titles--even though there's no reference to a "Nation of Bling" in the lyrics, Non and I both liked the title so it stuck for that song.

I've had a fairly dogged system for coming up with titles and even themes for Larvae records so far, and Exit Strategy falls right in line with the rest.  For the most part, the Larvae discography is broken up into full length albums that reflect relatively serious and sometimes personal themes, and shorter EPs or Singles that work to lighten things up a bit. Monster Music was a goofy homage to Godzilla, but Fashion Victim was written as a sort of culture critique. Empire was once again a fun way to explore movies through music (this time, Star Wars,) followed by Dead Weight, a moody record written at a time when I felt the need to make Larvae more personal again.

As I was preparing to leave my home of Atlanta after 12 eventful years, potential song titles seemed to pop up everywhere. I kept a running list of titles on a scrap piece of paper in my kitchen as I went through the motions of packing up and closing the door on a major chapter in my life. Eventually, many of the preliminary titles made it to final songs on the album. But like the previous LPs, I wanted the album itself to have a very specific name.

I think that I learned this from KMFDM of all places. Say what you will about KMFDM, but they went on a run there for a while with incredibly consistent titles and album covers and I always thought it helped to distinguish their work (since the music itself didn't help much.) I admired their ability to stick to those one-word, five-letter titles for so long, something they did mostly to sell t-shirts, I think. UAIOE, NAIVE, MONEY, ANGST, NIHIL, XTORT, etc.

All of the previous Larvae albums had two-word titles that could be interpreted in a couple of different ways but always included a word that made them sound kind of melancholy or even harsh: Fashion Victim, Dead Weight, Loss Leader... so I knew that the next Larvae record needed to fit in. I take a certain comfort in the fact that these things have some continuity. Fashion Victim - two words that mean completely opposite things depending on the person using them. Dead Weight - two words that refer to a very real, literal problem in my life and also hint at a more metaphorical one. Loss Leader - two words that evoke sadness but actually come from the world of commerce (some might not see the tension there.) Now, Exit Strategy - two words that point to a way to leave a situation, though they don't necessarily explain who is leaving and from where.  

I like this symmetry, and it's honestly been a conscious part of my game plan from the beginning, but I don't think I've ever wanted to explain it to anyone until now. I don't know how most musicians come up with titles for their work, but now you know a little bit about how I come up with the titles for mine.

Exit Strategy - The Beginning of the Story

Over the years, I have published a lot of words on this here internet. I started with a regular proto-blog back in 1999-2000 on the original Underwater and sub:marine websites. That content is actually still available through the magic of

I have traveled beyond the borders of my own web domain from time to time, keeping a film blog at, writing about my early musical exploits in GOG, and coughing up various other thoughts on Posterous. Now I'm coming back to to share a little bit about the making of the new Larvae record.

This Liner Notes section has a little bit of everything from straight-up tracklistings and credits to rememberances of records past and the people who helped to make them a reality. With the newest album, Exit Strategy, I plan to run a series of articles here that dive into some depth about the process of making this record. If that sounds interesting to you, please do bookmark this page, set up an RSS feed, or just check back when you get a tweet about it. It's a long story, and I have a lot to say.



Title : Videos
Format : DVD
Release Date : Oct 3, 2008
Label : None

2.Turning Around
3.Solo Shoots First
6.Blunt Force Trauma
8.Hayden's Ghost
9.Nation of Bling
12.Near Miss
14.Oxygen Destroyer
+Special Features

This white label DVD was the response to many requests at shows for Larvae to produce a DVD of the videos that are projected during gigs.  Over the years we have produced videos for about 20 Larvae tracks to be performed live.  This disc collects the best of those.  Each video is accompanied by an audio commentary track.  The special features include a behind the scenes look at Larvae video production, a promotional trailer, and a clip of Larvae featured on a BBC morning kids' television program.


Title : Seclusion Dub
Format : 7"
Release Date : March, 2003
Label : sub:marine

Tracklist :
A: Double (Miles Tilmann)
AA: Seclusion Dub


Written and Produced by M.Jeanes, B.Meng, and C.Burnett
Mastered by James Salter

Seclusion Dub was written as a response to the Miles Tilmann track Double that features on the A-side of this split 7" single. Miles sent us his track and we essentially broke it into 3 pieces, locked it to a tempo, and then wrote a new song on top of it at half the speed. The idea was to have a 7" with two perfectly compatible tracks that djs could spin together to make on-the-fly remixes. While the bass in both tracks together gets to be too much to handle, it's definitely possible to use Seclusion as an accented beat to Miles' track, or to mix Double under our track to give it more movement. Both tracks stand alone as well, of course.

Near Miss

Format : 7"
Release Date : Sept, 1999
Label : sub:marine

Tracklist :


Written and Produced by M.Jeanes, B.Meng
Remix by u-RAD
Mastered by George Harris

This was the first Larvae song ever written way back in 1997. It was originally called Near and was later remixed in 1999 to be Near Miss. In the two years between the first draft of this song and the final, tempos had been creeping up and up and the original 160 of Near didn't seem so fast anymore, so we bumped it up closer to 180. The B-Side was remixed by Jeremy of underwater, but kept with the original song's tempo. This record was pressed very badly, and consequently we have never tried very hard to promote or sell copies of it. The track lengths were just too long to fit comfortably on a 7" so in the end, the record plays about 6db lower than it should. Near Miss was also featured on the first sub:marine CD compilation in 2001, and the 7" was later given a sub:marine catalog number once the label had been established.

How to Disintegrate

Title : How to Disintegrate
Format : 3" CD
Release Date : 2007
Label : Creative Space
Tracklist :
1. Polemic Dub
2. 164 Spin
3. How to Disintegrate
4. Nothing Ends


Written and Produced by M.Jeanes
Mastered by Murcof

Creative Space, a terrific label based in Athens, Greece, approached me about doing a split series release with some other artists based around the theme of environmental destruction.  Ever up for a challenge and the potential to release a record on a new format (3" CD!!) I agreed to participate and proceeded to write three songs what was originally planned as three artists on three 3" CDs.

Polemic Dub is a remix of the track "Polemic" that appears on the Maschinenfest compilation from 2004.  Both tracks were comissioned around the same time and the notion of polemical debate as it pertained to environmental issues seemed appropriate.  "164 Spin" is taken from the colophon from a Spin Magazine where they indicated that 164,000 copies of the previous issue were not ordered or sold.  I imagine that they went straight into a landfill--164,000 copies!

I delivered the tracks during my show in Athens in 2004 and then waited quite a while for the artwork and other artist tracks to come together.  Eventually, the release was pared down to a second 3" CD from Spyweirdos called Seven Ways to Kill a Tree.  The fact that we both picked demonstrative titles seems to have been a lucky coincidence.

The track "Nothing Ends" was originally written for a Watchmen themed record that was to be part of a 12-part Watchmen series.  Unfortunately that never came to fruition and the track was appropriate for the Eco series release from Creative Space so the three song 3" CD expanded to four songs.

Unraveled Ears

Title : Unraveled Ears
Format : 12"
Release Date : June 26, 2006
Label : Ad Noiseam
Tracklist :
A1: Reset (Enduser)
A2: What's Left of Starting Over
B1: Kill It (Larvae Killed It) (Enduser)
B2: Warding (Enduser Remix)


Written and Produced by M.Jeanes and C.Burnett
Mastered by C-Drik

Ad Noiseam suggested that we work on a dance-oriented split 12" with Enduser, and Unraveled Ears was the result.  The A side contains two new tracks, one each by Enduser and Larvae.  The B side contains a remix that we did for Enduser's song "Kill It" and a remix he did for "Warding" from our album Dead Weight.

When asked what we should call the record, Lynn had no opinion so I suggested an anagram of Larvae and Enduser and the best result was UNRAVELED EARS.  We used Scrabble tiles to spell out the names on the record's inner label to solidify the joke.


Title : EMPIRE
Format : 12"
Release Date : May 19, 2005
Label : Ad Noiseam

Tracklist :
Light Side
1. Empire
2. Hayden's Ghost (Bong-Ra Remix)
3. Empire (Enduser Remix)
Dark Side
1.Hayden's Ghost
2. Solo Shoots First
3. Sith Witch


Written and Produced by M.Jeanes
Remixes byBong-Ra & Enduser
Mastered by John Sellekaers

Knowing that the next full length album would be less dance-floor friendly and moremelancholy, we decided to workw ithAd Noiseam to put outa DJ-friendly 12" of up-tempo tunes that harkened back to the giddy but heavy energy of Monster Music. Monster Music II was considered for a while until the growing spectre of the last Star Wars movie made itself the only theme worth working with for such a project. Rather than do something silly like a disco remix of the Imperial March, we took the theme of Star Wars and loosely wrote tracks around different ideas, not necessarily using samples from the movie. Solo Shoots First and Hayden's Ghost are both reactions to George Lucas' constant tampering with his classic films, while Sith Witch is a bit of a daydream (nightmare) about the ghoulish character design for Episode I that was never used. The title track, Empire, is the song most directly related to its subject, and it plays with video game melodies, score cues, and movie samples in a way that charts one fan's relationship with the series over the last 27 years.

Monster Music

Format : CD EP
Release Date : July 10, 2003
Label : Ad Noiseam

Tracklist :
4. MOTHRA remix


Written and Produced by M.Jeanes and B.Meng
Track 4 remix by Mothboy + Dustmite
Mastered by James Salter

The Monster Music EP was conceived as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the giant monsters of the Toho Company's Godzilla movies. While there is no ode to Godzilla himself, the other tracks pay homage to the giant moth, Mothra, the three-headed dragon Ghidrah, and Godzilla's technological counterpart, Mecha-Godzilla. These songs were originally written to be performed live alongside vintage super-8 Godzilla films. After several Monster Music performances, including one where a 6' Godzilla trampled over a home-made miniature city, we set out to record the best of the tracks in late 2001. The tracks caught the ear of Ad Noiseam in 2003 and the EP received a proper release in July. Click here to order one:

Fashion Victim

Format : CD
Release Date : October 3, 2003
Label : Ad Noiseam
1. Refuse
2. Kelvin (Genetic Mix)
3. Fashion Victim
4. I Owe You
5. Redline Version
6. The Voice Collapse
7. Philistine
8. Unbranded
9. Tonystark
10. Crazyeye


Written and Produced by M.Jeanes
Except Track 2 by M.Jeanes + Genetic
Mastered by James Salter

There are a whole lot of people to thank for this record coming into being. J.Smiley comes to mind, for adding some wicked filter manipulation on Crazyeye. Billy (Genetic) was kind enough to remix Kelvin into something worthy of being included here, and his tweaks to the original song really elevated the track. Omar Torres worked in some crazy-last minute mixing sessions so that we could get the master to Berlin on time. Rob at Zero Return is the king of a nice smooth bass tone, and introduced me to biodiesel while mixing Philistine, Refuse, and The Voice Collapse. And of course James put the finishing touches on in the badass mastering studio. And last but not least, my man Phil Le Peep Thompson helped out with the artwork in the homestretch after the first, commissioned artist flaked out. There's a lot more to say, but for now, thanks to all of you! Click here to order one:

Dead Weight

These notes are taken from my LiveJournal as they were originally posted in 2006.

Part One:
For a while now we've been playing with the idea of adding voices to some of the Larvae songs. It's a concept we've avoided (more to the point, that I've avoided) because of past experiences with bands, singers, and the difficulty of pulling music together in a group setting. When a band is on, when the members are working together and on the same page, there's probably nothing more rewarding than that. Knowing that you are a part of something bigger, better than what you could do on your own, and knowing that what you're doing is helping to inspire someone else, and to simultaneously BE inspired by your friends is really a pretty amazing experience, and it beats playing music by yourself with a computer 99% of the time.

On the other hand, when a band is at odds; when things aren't level; when interpersonal politics come in to play; when someone has a crisis that the others in the band don't share, or when someone wants more, needs less, takes more, gives less; when people in a band fall in love, or out of it--all of that can be maddening. Larvae was started waaaaaay back in 1997 as my way of working without a band. It was supposed to be music without voices, without a collective of ideas and influences, and something that could just be whatever I wanted for it to be. Over time, of course, that's changed.

This weekend, it changed a lot more.

After many months of trying to set something up, talking through emails and trying to connect, we were finally able to get a vocal session recorded for the new album. Truth be told, we've gotten some terrific vocal contributions in the mail from people who've been kind enough to work with us, and that stuff is wonderful. But being in the studio with people, recording voices over a track that already has a guest guitarist on it, it all started feeling much more like a band than a single-producer with lots of help type project. That's not to say that Larvae IS a band now, beyond Chris and I, but it sure is interesting to think about the possibilities.

I spent Saturday evening recording the amazingly talented Campbell sisters from hope for agoldensummer over a track I had written with them in mind called "Airplanes". Most people familiar with this journal through Larvae will probably never have heard of hope... since they are a band from Athens, Georgia that's about as far away in sound from something like our last 12" as anyone could possibly be. But that should change, and I don't mean it should change because it will change when people hear the next Larvae record--I mean it SHOULD change because theirs is a band and a sound that has, without wandering into too much hyperbole, really changed my life.

I know a lot of folks who make music. Most of my friends are musicians, in fact, and most people who might read this either are musicians themselves or are involved with music in some way. As people trying to make art/music, I think we can all agree that it can sometimes be easy to get stuck in an easy path that's guided by a million things, but not your heart. It can be easy to make cooler beats, or heavier basses, or funnier videos, or if not easy, those can at least be the motivations that drive our work at times. With success (even the very modest kind that we've been priviliged to achieve,) comes an even bigger temptation to play into expectations--to give people what they want, with a modicum of invention and re-engineered ideas to keep it interesting to ourselves. Of course we'd never do anything we didn't believe in, and I hope that most folks I know are the same, but there are things that you believe in, and then things that you are absolutely compelled to do.

When I say that hope for agoldensummer changed my life, I mean it sincerely in the sense that seeing them play in December 2004 and subsequently listening to their album about a thousand times gave me a new sense of purpose with this whole music thing. I also mean it in the sense that I learned so much about what I was doing wrong and about how I was approaching music just from watching and listening to them, that I wonder sometimes what I've been doing for the last few years.

I know that not everyone reading this will 'get it' or be moved the way I was by this band (see my review of their record here: Brainwashed), and I've already talked to several people who are close friends who have said "yeah, they're pretty good" or "yeah, they're okay," who obvoiusly haven't been hit in the chest with the emotional bowling ball of hope like I have. And that's okay. But what I hope that people will see and hear in our collaboration with them is a new side to our music that was unlocked through a simple friendship and a single song. We've had so many great contributors to this record, all of them absolutely essential to the record even being made at all, but recording and mixing the voices for this song "Airplanes" has so far been the high water mark for my career with Larvae, which is something that's likely to surprise a lot of folks. With that said, I just hope that when this song and this record comes out, that people can hear in it what I hear in it, and that maybe what the Campbell sisters were able to do to me with their record, we will together be able to do for other people with ours.

Part Two:
I should probably try to explain just how crazy it is for me that Jessica Bailiff sang on our new record.

I got into Kranky by way of Bowery Electric back in 1996. BE's record Beat (which is definitely on my top 5 favorite albums of all time list) was in rotation at WVFS in Tallahassee and I was delivering pizzas so I had the radio on a lot. Beat is one of those landmark moments in my musical history--one of the times where I heard something that was so perfectly fused from different sounds that I loved but had never thought of putting together that it changed the way I thought about what I wanted to do musically. It was the kind of record that made me want to quit making music altogether because the sound I didn't even know that I wanted to create was already laid down perfectly, and there was no need to expand on it. It was also the kind of record that inspired me to figure out what kind of a label would put out a record like that, and to seek out anything else that label had to offer.

Labradford is great too, of course, and Pan American and Stars of the Lid, so before I knew it I had a small empire of Kranky discs that I would buy just based on the logo on the sleeve, but it wasn't until I got the first Jessica Bailiff record, Even in Silence that I really found something to obsess over. Even in Silence was a record I would listen to over and over. It was the kind of thing that just felt right at almost any time. There are records you have to be in the mood for, and then there are records that just always seem to hit the spot, and this was one. I had no idea that it had some connection to Low, I just knew that this was a new favorite record and one that I must have fallen asleep or daydreamed to dozens of times.

At the same time that I had Jessica Bailiff on heavy rotation, I was starting to work on Larvae material which was about as far aesthetically away from JB as could be. Larvae was loud, hard, beaty, and altoegther unsubtle where Even in Silence and later Hour of the Trace were sublime in their quiet simplicity. Part of the impetus for Larvae's initial direction might have even been a reaction to these records in the sense that I didn't want to approach that type of slow, introspective music because I just felt like I'd never be happy with it. With Underwater, we did more of that, so Larvae was again playing the contrarian role.

Now with a couple of records of our own under the belt, it felt like the right time to indulge in a more personal process--one that wasn't ruled by taking things far away from where I'd like them to be, or stuck in a routine of where other people expected them to be. In a way, the new direction for Dead Weight was announced way back in 2003 with the track "Philistine" on Fashion Victim, which was at the time a track that I wasn't sure would fit on a record that was primarily beat-focused. As we started working on this new record, one of the first things that came to mind was the idea of working with Jessica Bailiff. As we started writing songs, I knew there would be some that we would try to send to MCs, at least one that we would try to give to Hope for Agoldensummer, and I always wanted one or two that I could imagine Jessica singing on. It took until very late in the game and a little prodding from a friend of mine to go ahead and present the tracks to her and ask if she'd like to contribute to the record, but I'm overjoyed to say that she did, and that one of the dreams of how this record could come together has been realized.

As with everything on this record, I hope that people will embrace these songs, and that somehow these songs will have at least some of the impact on others that they have on me. It's difficult to imagine how to top a record where we've been lucky enough to work with people that we admire, and in Jessica's case, with someone whose music has been an inspiration for me personally for years. Hopefully everyone else will be able to hear the results of that collaboration soon.

Part Three:
A co-worker once asked me "do you love hip hop?"
I said, somewhat cautiously, "yeah,"
which he followed with, "no, do you really LOVE hip hop?"

That took some thinking. The way I understood him, love for hip hop needed to be unconditional. Love meant that it wasn't fair to call out shit like Nelly for being idiotic, or to bust on Puffy for making fortunes by stealing other people's (better) music wholesale. If loving hip hop means that I have to look embrace the chauvanism, bravado, gun waving, pimp glorifying, dub spinning, bling obsessed masses that make up the bulk of modern hip hop, then no, I have to say that I don't love it.

But when I think about hip hop, I imagine few of those things because the hip hop that I do love comes from something more pure than all of that. The soundtrack to Beat Street is one of the first records I ever remember buying. I must have been about 7 when I would stand in our living room popping and locking to Grand Master Melle Mel. My parents didn't know what to make of it. Hell, I wasn't sure what to make of it, but something about the music moved me.

Since I started making music, I've always wanted to work with an MC, but it's never really worked out. I produced a demo for a guy named Romaine in Tallahassee that was pretty cool, but my heart wasn't completely in it. Regardless, nothing ever came of that session anyway. With Larvae, especially recently, the thought of working with an MC popped up again and I was at first reluctant because I knew that finding the right person to work with would be a huge challenge.

In Atlanta, my experience with the underground hip hop scene here is that it's either trying to be like the big boys, and thus no better than the crap they shell out, or it's almost obscenely positive--something I admire but that doesn't tend to work with the kind of music we make. Finding someone here didn't seem like much of an option, and I didn't want our record to turn into one of those things where a couple of producers just hire MCs from all over to create something that's not very cohesive. Jon Whitney made that point to me once about a record we both like but that we both wish was just instrumental because the vocals seemed to get in the way of something that used to work without them.

So, knowing that we'd have some sort of vocals this time around, I decided to go ahead and give the MC route a shot. In fact, the two songs that have MCs were written specifically with the people on them in mind, and I still sometimes find it hard to believe that we've worked with these folks.

I met Scalper at a festival in France as he was performing with 2nd Gen. I've never seen someone so intense and at the same time so quiet on stage before. Even when he wasn't vocalizing, he seemed to be attacking the mic and the stage with this presence. It was pretty awesome to watch and I thought immediately that I could write a song around that. I asked him if he'd be up for it and shortly after, we were passing CDs back and forth through the mail. I was so sure that the track he finished Art of War was going to be HIS that I didn't even name it. The cubase file just had his name on it. What he did with the track was amazing and subtle. There's really only one verse, but it's repeated in the song over two different sections. At first I thought this was kind of cheating, but then I realized that there was a really intense dynamic when I heard the words with one cadence over one verse of the song, and then with another cadence and flow over another section. Scalper perfectly matched the bombed out depth of that track with a seering vocal about sending kids off to war. The album didn't have much of a social/political bent before this track, but I'm glad that he's given us a conscience of sorts with his contribution here.

Nation of Bling was a track that I had the idea for a long, long time ago. The track had written itself in a dream, it just needed to be laid down to tape. For vocals, I hoped beyond hope that we could get Non from Shadow Huntaz to be on the track, but I doubted that such a thing would ever come through. In the last couple of years, Shadow Huntaz have been one of the only new hip hop groups to make it into my car cd player's regular rotation. Corrupt Data and Valley of the Shadow are a couple of the best hip hop records released anywhere in the last few years, and while I'd wanted to work with Non for a while, I just didn't think we were there yet. To my great surprise, Non turned out a wicked, abstract vocal for the song that really gives it life. I mean, fucking Non from Shadow Huntaz is ON OUR RECORD. I have to capitalize it just to make sense of it! While I had written the song to be a kind of send up of mainstream hip hop culture, Non took it in other, stranger directions and now it sings. It's hard to describe the feeling of working with someone like that. I imagine it would be kind of similar to playing a game of pick up soccer with Cobi Jones or having Steven Soderbergh hold the camera for your student film, or cooking dinner with an Iron Chef or something.

So, Larvae's dipped a toe into the giant ocean of hip hop now, and I'm happy to say that what we've done still sounds like Larvae, but that it wears my love for hip hop on its sleeve. Loving hip hop, I think, means not stealing it for some other purpose. It means not bastardizing the form just for the sake of a reference that people who otherwise don't listen to hip hop will think is 'cool.' Now I'd just like to find that co-worker now and hand him a tape and see what he thinks.

Loss Leader

Title : Loss Leader
Format : CD
Release Date : October 3, 2008
Label : Ad Noiseam

Tracklist :
Turning Around EP
1. Turning Around
2. Giftshop
3. Dischord
4. Heavy
Monster Music 2 EP
1. Monster Zero
2. Megalon
3. Gigan and the Mysterians
4. Oxygen Destroyer


Written and Produced by M.Jeanes
Mastered by C-Drik

After Dead Weight, it was hard to imagine where to go next.  That record had a certain finality to it as if a particular musical path had reached its end.  In its wake, there was a fairly disasterous tour and the lingering feeling that all of the effort and the collaborators and the different directions hadn't really connected with people. 

There plan for the follow up release was tentatively set to be a single EP with four tracks of more guitar-oriented songs.  These songs became the first half of Loss Leader, the Turning Around EP.  I had every intention of releasing this by itself as it works as a standalone record and I like the idea of EP-length records more than LPs anyway.  "Heavy" had been recorded right on the heels of Dead Weight, but the remaining tracks were all new and they were recorded over the span of about 8 months sometime between late 2007 and mid 2008. 

However, I realized that we needed some tracks that would be more fun to play live and I had a renewed interest in playing with electronic beats, samples, and a goofy theme.  Monster Music 2 was a natural choice, as the original Monster Music had only touched on the great themes from Toho films.  I decided that it would be easier and in the end more fun to make videos for Godzilla-inspired songs than mopey guitar songs, so the plan was hatched to create a second EP.

By the time we came to the mastering and artwork and release details stage of the process, it no longer seemed like a reasonable idea to produce two separate discs and packages for so little new music.  While I would have loved to have had a gatefold package with two distinct discs in it or two separate releases altogether, the economics and environmental concerns made the decision for us.  As a result, Loss Leader may seem a bit fracture if listened to straight through, but in a strange way I think that combining the two EPs on a single disc highlights the similarities more than the differences.